Skill gaps in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medtech sector

Pharmaceutical rep giving sales pitch

Australia’s medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical (MTP) sector supports approximately 70,000 Australian jobs and in 2019 contributed more than $5 billion in Gross Value Added to the Australian economy. Australia continues to cement its reputation as a ‘go to’ destination for companies wanting to conduct clinical trials, seeing a 22% increase on 2015, as well as contributing an estimated $1.1 billion a year to the economy. 

In 2020 Covid-19 posed a new set of challenges for the MTP sector, forcing it to quickly adapt with the onset of the pandemic and rapidly mobilise to meet the challenge. However, the sectors continued delivery of strong growth means employers are need to build the capabilities of the MTP workforce. Like most sectors, skills gaps remain and filling these will be critical to maintaining the momentum of the industry moving into the future. 

Here are some current, emerging and future skills gaps that need to be addressed in order to drive growth for Australia’s MTP organisations. 


Business operations 

According to a survey of workforce skills and capabilities in Australia’s MTP sector, most organisations were concerned with a lack of business skills and commercial expertise, particularly among mid and senior-level recruits, rather than entry level.  

Overall, at least half of respondents were concerned with the level of skill across most business areas, which included skills such as ‘communication and presentation’, ‘clarity of vision for the business’, ‘leadership and decision making’ and ‘risk assessment and mitigation’.  

The anticipated skill needed for future growth within the area of business that received the greatest level of concern from employers was ‘global experience’. This is likely because as organisations look to expand their global reach into new markets, they are looking for talented individuals who already have experience in similar international markets and healthcare systems. The broader an employee’s knowledge of the industry, markets and culture, the greater value they will be able to contribute to a company. 


Regulation and quality 

Amidst Australia’s highly regulated pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, skills related to regulatory affairs and quality control are considered to be of increasing importance. Skills in this area relate to a detailed understanding of regulatory and reimbursement processes required to bring a MTP product or service successfully to market.  

2021 survey identified a skills gap in the “awareness and understanding of regulatory requirements amongst start-ups and SMEs”. Employers are also experiencing a shortage of health economists who have experience in successfully listing products on the Medicare Benefits Schedule/Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, as well as a shortage of skills in assessing emerging therapies, such as stem cell. 


Product development and commercialisation 

Within the area of product development, many employers are not only struggling with a skills gap, but an “experience gap.”  

An MTP Connect study showed that organisations are facing a shortage of experienced professionals who have practical commercialisation experience that allows them to mentor researchers and start-ups through the research translational process, including early-phase drug development. 

Further to this, there is a capability gap in understanding the needs of the market, as well as pitching for funding, investment and collaboration from government and private organisations through clearly articulating these unmet market needs and the commercial potential in proposals. Researchers and companies that lack the skills to effectively target and secure funding, investment or industry support will struggle to reach successful commercialisation outcomes, meaning they cannot get their product to market and will see a loss of clinical and commercial benefits. 


Informatics, computation, data and cyber security 

As technology advances, so too will innovations within the MTP sector. In response, it will be important for employers to hire those with the skills and experience to take advantage of these technological developments, allowing them to remain competitive within the market. 

Following on from the events of 2020, it has become increasingly clear that Australia is facing a looming skill shortage within the cybersecurity space, with an estimated 18,000 additional cybersecurity professionals required to ensure Australia’s digital security by 2026. This is being felt within the MTP sector, which is experiencing a shortage of cybersecurity professionals who understand the tools, technologies, processes and practices that can be used to protect networks, computers and data across the MTP and healthcare sector from unauthorised access or attacks. 

Further to this, the capture and analysis of data is becoming increasingly important as systems become more sophisticated. Many MTP organisations are lacking in data scientists who can capture, curate and interpret large streams of (often unstructured) health data. This gap also extends to a lack of understanding among management around big data benefits, as well as a shortage of data ‘influencers’ who can demonstrate and communicate the value of analytics. 


If you work within the MTP sector and are looking for professionals with specific scientific and technical skills and experience, partner with a recruitment organisation that understands the industry and contact Bayside Group today. 

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